Time-Out for Mommy?

Posted by mwallach on August 17, 2011 in My Kids, New To You |

Dear That’s Life,
I thought the conversation was over. The jury was back, the case closed. I thought I had made myself clear, but clearly, I was wrong. Now, I needed to be punished, or so concluded my younger son.

The Kletzky tragedy sent every parent into a tailspin, and for good reason. In an effort to right ourselves, we sat our kids down and reviewed the rules of interacting with people whom they did not know. Never get into their car, we told them, even if they promise it’s okay. That seemed to be the easier lesson to learn. Teaching your children not to talk to strangers – well, that is much more challenging.

Discussed in a previous post (“I Talk to Strangers”, Aug. 3), my children have aptly noted on more than one occasion that I, indeed, talk to people I do not know. Adults interact with other adults all of the time, rendering communication both a necessity and inevitable. It is just the way the world works, is acceptable and not something I am willing to change. In addition, I adamantly refuse to raise my children in a world where wishing someone a ‘Good Shabbos’, even someone I don’t know, is deemed inappropriate. That is something else I am not willing to change. Part of the lesson has been that adults can talk to other adults, but children may not talk to strangers. While I felt that was a fair line to draw, clear cut and easy to understand, apparently it was not.

Taking my children for haircuts is often an entertaining endeavor (as are most otherwise inconsequential events). A lovely older woman was admiring my kids, engaging me in conversation about them. From the other end of the store, my son yelled out, “Mommy – do you know that lady?” At this point, I knew exactly where this was going as did anyone in a twelve mile radius. Not the first time, nor the fifth, this had been asked, we’d been down this road before. When I explained that I did not know her, the yelling continued. “We DON’T talk to strangers, Mommy!” he exclaimed. I reminded him that as an adult, I was free to talk to whomever I chose but he, as a child, was not. “But you ARE someone’s child,” he continued, not letting it end there. Knowing my father would be joining us for Shabbos, my smart-alleck of a son then added, “I’m going to tell Saba that you were talking to a stranger.” Using my best death-stare and just shy of losing it completely, I looked at him and said, “Go right ahead.” True to his word, as soon as my father arrived for Shabbos, my son proceeded to tell on me.

Even before the customary hug and kiss, my son informed his grandfather what I had done. “Your daughter talked to a stranger,” he said. It was unclear what he expected to happen next, but my father explained that this was my house. I was free to do as I pleased. Dissatisfied, my son continued. “I think you should give Mommy a time-out,” he said. That earned him yet another death-stare. As if that was not enough, however, the saga did not end there.

Upon returning from shul (synagogue) Shabbos morning, my very sweaty son walked in the house. I wished him a “Good Shabbos” but was not met with the same greeting. “Your father was talking to a stranger,” said my son as he took off his shoes. Now, I was annoyed. “Are you tattle-tailing on your grandfather?!” I exclaimed, completely bewildered at the new level of chutzpah my son had apparently reached. But even before he could answer my question, he continued with his own train of thought. “I think you should put him in time out,” he said.

Suffice it to say, a time-out was had by someone, but it was not me – nor was it my father. I think my point was finally made. Game over.
MLW

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